Ahead of climate strike, group says time for public to respond to haze crisis

A woman covers her face with a scarf in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, which is shrouded in haze, in Putrajaya September 17, 2019. — Reuters pic
A woman covers her face with a scarf in front of the Prime Minister’s Office, which is shrouded in haze, in Putrajaya September 17, 2019. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 — A group of Malaysian professionals is calling on the public to act on the haze problem currently faced by the country by taking part in the Global Climate Strike this weekend.

The group, made up of doctors, lawyers, academics, social activists and economists, says that the global movement is the first chance that Malaysians are getting to take action on the crisis.

“The world will see an unprecedented ‘strike’ by children, youths and others to bring attention to the climate emergency that threatens to engulf all of humanity. It shouldn’t take children to ask adults to fix the problems that adults created in the first place,” it said in a statement here.

The group called for people to learn more about and get involved with the massive global movement that has gained traction globally. In Malaysia, it will start with a month-long Ops Darurat Iklim (Climate Emergency Operation) featuring workshops and documentary screenings, and culminate in a rally on September 21.

Previously, the group, which consists of University of Malaya’s senior fellow Khor Swee Kheng, former head of the Paediatric Department at Ipoh Hospital Datuk Dr Amar Singh-HSS and Penang Institute analyst Darshan Joshi, among others, proposed an RM1 lawsuit against Indonesia in the International Court of Justice to compel it to take proactive measures against the haze which has affected several states in the country.

Lawyers said that such legal action was unrealistic and could not be done due to limitations in the law and treaties signed by the two countries.

The group said that it was grateful for the feedback and that it believed the response was sincere and not “anti-solutionist or obstructionist”.

“In response, we ask for a joint and constructive effort with our lawyer friends from all countries to find legal solutions for what’s possible to fight the haze, especially in light of the repeated failures of the status quo. To paraphrase Kennedy, don’t tell us what the law won’t let us do, but tell us what the law will let us do,” it added.

“The proposed lawsuit is our stand as Malaysia asking for new, bold and imaginative legal solutions for the haze. It is crucial to deploy the law in our fight against haze, alongside political, economic, scientific and behavioural measures.

“We need as wide a set of options as possible. If our current decades-old laws don’t or won’t permit us to act effectively, then let’s propose new and better laws instead of merely stating that our hands are tied.”

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